Queen. Live Aid. Awesome.

This is the performance I bring up whenever anybody disses Queen, whenever anybody talks about how great the music environment is today and whenever anybody talks about great live shows. There have only been a handful personalities in music history who could play a show like Live Aid and nail it to the back wall of Wembley, commanding the stage with the necessary pomp. Mick Jagger (and most of the Stones), Paul McCartney (and the rest of the surviving Beatles as well), Roger Daltrey (Pete Townsend as well), Prince, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Bono and Sting. From that group, only Prince and Bruce Springsteen did not take the Live Aid stage. Up until the point that Queen took the stage, Bono dancing with a crowd member was the standout moment of the day. And then Queen took the stage at 6:40pm. Blew the lid off the mother.

Put your headphones on and watch this. If you don’t have goosebumps at any point in this, we need to have a talk:

Here’s a bit of background about Queen’s performance from a documentary about Live Aid:

I’m not sure if it’s from a documentary called Live Aid Against All Odds (part 1), Live Aid Rockin’ All Over The World (part 2 link is to the first of six parts) a documentary about how Live Aid came together. Bob Geldof pushed it so hard. I assumed that artists would be clamoring to play for charity, given the growdswell of Band Aid.

England stopped that day. I’ll never forgot trying to work, ending up at various houses and they didn’t want a thing to do with us except watch Live Aid. I knew missionaries who planned their day to visit “friendly” LDS families so they could see their favorite bands. I wouldn’t know a thing about that, though. Just stories, from what I heard.

I remember being transfixed through the bit of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the front of their set but when the intro notes to “Radio Ga Ga” started and I was disappointed, because I didn’t think that was a song strong enough for an event of Live Aid’s scope.

I was wrong.

  • Michael Wiggins

    YES. Live at Wembley the following year is also awe inspiring. And the mobilization of talent for Freddie’s memorial concert (I’m thinking Bowie and Annie Lennox rehearsing Under Pressure… magic) is a testament to how important this band was.

  • Naomi Shadix

    My first experience with Bohemian Rhapsody was that scene in Wayne’s World. Not long after that, my jr. high choir director had us learn and perform it (yeah, she’s awesome). I’ve been a fan of Queen ever since. The music is amazing, the rock operatics are revolutionary, and nobody makes an overbite as sexy as Freddie Mercury does (did).

  • Jane Owings-Schaefermeyer

    OMG, I sat in front of the television ALL DAY, just transfixed. To this day, no one in rock has come close to Freddie Mercury, not even Bono, whom I love. (Sorry, B)! Queen blew my mind that day and I haven’t fully recovered. Nor do I want to. A couple of years ago I bought the DVD set and watch it about once a year. It was “my” Woodstock.

  • tljoyce

    Goosebumps at 00:35.

  • Marilyn Shipley

    Thank you SO much for posting this. Not only goosebumps for me, but also tears. I remember that day so well. And it was my ex-husband’s birthday too. A glorious sunny day in England. Our daughter was 6 (oh, my, how time flies!!). I’m English (although I haven’t always lived there) and you are right, everything in England did stop that day. Our television was on all day – even though we spent most of it basking in the sun on our patio. Oh what a star we lost when Freddie died. I loved him then, I love him now. What a performer. An absolute genius. (How DARE anyone ever diss Queen???!!) The response of the crowd is incredible. Goosebumps? Goose lumps more like!! Thanks again.

  • cyndyyates

    I live in the Philadelphia area and the same thing happened here…the whole area was at a standstill….I worked part of the day and the rest of the day watched all I could on tv. Was awesome. I have a few musical regrets, one being I never got to see Queen live while Freddy Mercury was alive. I think he is just an amazing vocalist. Thanks for the flash back and the reminder that I have the Live Aid disc set waiting to be watched! Might have to break it out and make the 7yr old watch it with me!

  • Catherine

    One of my earliest memories (I was 4 in 1985), one of my favourite, and one we re-lived as a family for years afterwards, thanks to that newfangled and wonderful invention, the VCR. To this day, no-one gets to diss Queen to me either. :)

  • Amy

    People diss Queen? I always thought they were one of those universally loved bands… even if it’s just the main singles you know.

    There is something so magical about being in a crowd that big, with people who all know the words to the songs being performed. Oh rhythmic clapping, you get me every time.

  • MoJo

    Goosebumps, as always, during We Are The Champions.

  • MoJo

    Also, when I first got the recording to Live Aid and heard Bono and U2 play the opening notes to Bad, I cried. God, I love live music. Sometimes music can really grab you by the heart, twist it around, shove it back in your chest and make it beat again.

  • PandoraHasABox

    My love for Queen is wholly un-ironic. Freddie Mercury was a genius as a musician and a performer. Thinking about how you were disappointed with “Radio Ga-Ga” being the second song, in retrospect it would seem really savvy on their part to play it then. It got the entire audience *engaged*. They were no longer watching; they were participating.

  • Alison Groth

    Mercury. What a talent that AIDS stole. One of milions (including many friends). My mother *who died in 2005 at 83) told me (before 9/11) that AIDS was my generation’s war. Thank you for posting this, for reminding me why I’ve always stood up for this band. And while I’m here, just thank you, period. I really enjoy your insight. Also? I don’t really understand how to post with my real name, so again it’s anon.

    • Alison Groth

      Oh wait, maybe I do understand! :0

  • Meg H

    Anytime I see a video of Freddie Mercury performing, I cry. I was in utero for Live Aid, which means I’m pretty sure I absorbed it (my father is a rock musician, there’s no way he wasn’t watching the performance at full volume). No one did it better.

  • Amy Coletta

    No one should ever diss Queen. In the last year, I introduced my 16 year old daughter to their music and that amazing performance at Live Aid. I was 17 that summer and considered myself the world’s biggest U2 fan. But the way Freddie worked that stage and owned that crowd…my God. I was apoplectic when my dad recorded over those VHS tapes a year later, never imagining that at some point in my life I would be able to queue up that performance whenever the mood struck. As for my daughter, some of my favorite moments with her are driving in the car, selecting Queen on our iPods and singing along at the top of our lungs. She does a hysterical lip synch to Bohemian Rhapsody, too.

    Any Queen detractors should be pointed to the documentary released last year by the BBC, “Days of Our Lives”. It’s beautiful. There’s no doubt Freddie was one of the greatest frontmen to ever take the stage.

  • Andrea Bailey

    This is the performance that my family and i have watched over and over and over (I have cool parents). We taped, via VHS, the entire Live Aid concert … so many tapes. I cant count how many times we’ve fast-forwarded to this part of the concert. Freddy was an amazing performer. I was young when he died, but knew enough to be incredibly sad. Thanks for the reminder of this performance!

  • Ryan Waddell

    I’ve never heard anybody diss Queen. Everybody I know at least LIKES Queen, if they don’t actively love them. I blame Wayne’s World for my love of them, as I didn’t really know who they were before that (and I’d say the same goes for much of my generation, born at the end of the 70’s/early 80’s).

    Having said that? If we’re going to talk about musicians blowing the doors off a live performance? Robbie Williams. Knebworth. The fact that he never gained any traction in North America is one of music’s great tragedies. I was lucky enough to be living in Dublin during one of his tours – 80,000 people, the concert sold out in minutes. He puts on a HELL of a show.

  • hockeychic

    I remember this so well. It was by far the performance of the day (and this from a die-hard U2 fan). I had to buy the DVD boxset just for this performance. It was like nothing else. How much color left this world when Freddy died. He was a showman like no other.

  • Kate Strachan

    Forget goosebumps. This brought tears. Of joy for how tremendous this performance was, and is, and of anger at what a mother fucker AIDS is. Thanks for this. Thank you so much.

  • chernevik

    Thank you for this — I somehow missed it the time.

  • Lilly O’Handley

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear a crowd chant and clap in unison to your music…much less that many! And a crowd call-back of epic proportions!!!!!!! Goosebumps is right!

  • Bernadette Smith

    ok, tears in my eyes and definite chills. I remember that day so clearly. Bohemian Rhapsody is so poignant now. Heartbreaking that he is gone. What a stage presence. Thank you for reminding me of that summer that seems like a million years ago and yesterday.

  • daria

    Love, love, love, love, love me some Freddie Mercury! I love that he’s simultaneously a diva on stage and a hardcore rocker! Something else I love? Brian May! He’s like a shy genius. Yes, that’s a lot of loves all in a row, and they deserve it! Freddie Mercury was the face of the gay rights movement and libration in still-optimistic post-Soviet Russia (where I’m from) in the 80s. His influence on the world is so astounding and far-reaching!

  • sarahdoow

    And that’s how Youtube can do good for everyone … I’ve not been able to get this clip out of my head since you posted it and am now downloading Queen’s live album from iTunes. Thanks for the impetus!

  • Beth Rich George

    This post, just this post, made me so regret not visiting you every. single. day. Word up my friend. Respect.